Island Bed Progress Review

Despite it being a 70’s thing, I have an island bed, it’s even kidney-shaped. Technically it is an island as you can walk all the way around it but it is bordered by grass on one side and a path on the other so you could argue. I dug it in the middle of last year I think. There was just grass before (it didn’t deserve to be called “lawn”). I “needed” it because of where I planned to put the first garden arch.

I had already propagated several plants from cuttings and grown others from seed. Bulbs were also to be added to the mix. I had a planting scheme for where everything would go and how it would all look.

That autumn, the young plants and bulbs all went in. At some point the idea of a second garden arch came into my head and I knew exactly where to put it, it would just need a slight enlargement of this border and the one along the back fence to accommodate it. After the winter, some of the plants had been lost but the close planting meant there weren’t many gaps.

As the year moved on, the starburst of aquilegia and alliums gave way to spires of delphiniums and the ephemeral Evening Primrose that appeared to float above the border. They were followed by the irresistible scent of the roses and lilies.

Now in the autumn, the glamorous Stargazer lilies and exotic Peacock Orchids have appeared, even the roses are going for a second flush. On warm still days, a rich, sweet scent hovers in a cloud around this bed.

Of course not everything went according to plan, here are some points that I’ll remember for next time:

  • Don’t crowd alliums so close together, they’re better when the heads are individual
  • Establish dianthus more before planting out and don’t put in the middle where they will be smothered by larger plants that will grow over the top of them
  • More lower growing plants such as aquilegias can be put with taller, narrow plants such as Acidanthera around the outside
  • Lilies are tall and narrow, low-growing shady plants can be grown underneath them
  • Don’t bank on seed-sown snapdragon to fill in the gaps when the summer has been as bad as the one we’ve just had.

This island bed will stay pretty much as is, perhaps with some additional plants for the edges and ground cover. Of course, it looks absolutely nothing like the planting plan that I had when all those little pots were laid out. None of the borders ever seem to follow the plans I have for them.

4 Comments


  1. Hey, don’t knock the 70s. We just didn’t know how good we had it back then, notwithstanding the bellbottoms. I have an Island bed, too, and I’m proud of it. Yours looks great, I especially love those alliums. To me they don’t look too crowded.

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    1. Hi Jason, thanks, glad you like it, the Evening Primrose floating over the top make it especially nice. I’m waiting for the roses to establish and the lilies to multiply now.

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  2. Sunnil – it’s looking good!!And your tips are good too. I have (but not for long) three island beds which never did look as good as I wanted them to. This autumn the grass between them will disappear and they will become one lovely giant border, which some key skeleton stuff already in. Will add a pick to my blog before all the flowering is done as a “before”.

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    1. Hi Mrs Mac, a merger of separate beds into one larger one is a good idea, especially if it involves taking up grass. Do take “before” and “after” photos, I really like seeing real “transformations”. This is one of those rare times where I managed to remember to take pictures before, mid-way and after, I don’t have many.

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